Blogger: Rachel Kent
I won’t claim this for every agent, but I know that Books & Such agents try very hard to communicate well with our clients and to respond to emails in an efficient way. We care deeply about the author-agent relationship, and we want everything to run smoothly, but sometimes our weeks are hijacke,d and plans have to change.
This week has been a crazy week for me and for some authors too. Three crises (one major) have occurred that have affected my clients, and I’ve been working hard to deal with each one as it has come my way. This is the job of an agent. I need to help my clients to stay safe through the ups and downs of this publishing roller coaster. (I guess I’m the lap bar on the roller coaster car.) But when these crisis moments occur, they mess up an agent’s typical work week schedule.
The crisis has to be responded to first–so responding to emails gets pushed aside, reading query letters and proposals is put on the back burner, and submitting client proposals to publishing houses is delayed as well. My email inbox is out of control right now. I’ve read the emails to be sure I’m not missing another possible crisis, but things that aren’t urgent are going to have to wait until next week.
Some of my clients might feel like I’m ignoring them, but I’m not. Unfortunately, I have to prioritize my time to deal with the most sensitive issues first. I often wish I had endless time and energy!
If you ever do feel like you’re being ignored by your agent or if some relationship in your publishing career seems to be getting sticky–I suggest you give the person in question the benefit of the doubt. Assume the best intentions and schedule a phone call to catch up and reconnect. This is true for author-agent relationships, author-author relationships, author-editor relationships and so on. If you are agented and you’re having trouble with your editor or another writer, please check in with your agent about the problem as well.
If you continue to receive no response from your emails to your agent, pick up the phone and call. Email isn’t 100% reliable, and a phone call is a great way to be sure that your agent is aware that the two of you need to talk. I prefer scheduled calls so my work flow isn’t constantly interrupted, but if a client has been emailing me asking to set up a phone call and I haven’t responded, I definitely want to receive a call.
Sometimes a relationship really is broken and needs to be fixed or ended, but I bet most of the time communication just needs to be reestablished and things will be smooth again.
When you are hit with a crisis situation what do you do?
What form of communication are you most comfortable with? Do you ever avoid email or phone because you don’t enjoy communicating that way?
Personally, I wish all of my business communication could be done in person with coffee in hand, but it hardly ever works that way!
When it seems like your literary agent is ignoring you… via agent @rachellkent Click to tweet.
“I am the lap bar on the publishing roller coaster car,” says literary agent @rachellkent. Click to tweet.
Reestablishing communication is often all a struggling relationship needs to heal. via @rachellkent Click to tweet.
I love your analogy of being the lap bar on the roller coaster! Sorry you’re having a challenging week, but I’m glad you prioritized to deal with urgent business first. Agents should discern between fire-level emergencies and casual e-mails. So should everyone, right? 🙂
Communication? I’m definitely an e-mail or text gal. I think my brain is wired oddly or something, but I struggle with not being able to see the visual clues when I’m on the phone. If I know someone well, I like chatting on the phone because I can guess the visual clues. But an acquaintance or stranger? Not so much.
Have a terrific weekend!!
I love the lap bar statement too! It’s perfect. Can’t wait to be in the place where a lap bar is necessary 🙂
I don’t like unplanned business calls for the same reason. I need my notes in front of me so that I don’t feel lost. 🙂
I thought the same thing, Jill. What a fabulous analogy. Thanks for being committed to blogging even when you’re having a crisis-filled week, Rachel.
I’m definitely more of an email person, because it gives me time to compose my thoughts and read again what I’m saying before hitting send. Though there is a definite disadvantage to communicating this way, it helps me to remain focused and less emotional than when I’m speaking to someone. There are also some details you want to have in writing and not trust to the notes you take while talking over the phone. I don’t avoid the phone, but email is easier.
Praying your day goes smoothly.
Thanks, Cheryl! I enjoy spending time with all of you here. And I appreciate the prayers.
I love your advice to give the benefit of the doubt. The problem is that you’re working with writers–a highly creative bunch. So if we don’t hear back from you, we can come up with 16 story lines to explain why. And at least half of them feature the dark moment!
Seriously, though, I’ve found B&S agents to be incredibly responsive. Thank you!
I love that, Sarah. We writers ARE good at coming up with a multitude of story lines that include dark moments. 🙂
Oh, yes! We writers have no shortage of explanations; and the longer we have to think about it, the more dramatic the story becomes. After I spent an evening composing the odyssean adventures of a man coming home from work, my husband FINALLY understood why he has to call if he’s going to be late.
This made me laugh out loud! So, so true. Someone just said to me the other day, “Why do you always assume the worst?” Something about the creative mind, you just can’t shut if off.
This cracked me up too!
Rachel, this is great advice. And, I too, loved the lap bar analogy. It fits the role of an agent. 🙂
When I’m hit with a crisis situation, I prioritize to best deal with the crisis. And yes, some things get put lower on the list for a time.
When communicating, I prefer a phone call or an email for the “bigger” stuff. If it’s a quick question or conversation, I don’t mind texting. I think so much is missed when people try to work out issues solely via text. Visual cues and intonation are absent, which makes it easy to misconstrue the real intent of words.
I agree! It’s very easy to misconstrue meaning without talking with the person!
“Please keep your hands and arms inside the car at all times, and secure any loose articles. And enjoy your ride.” I spent three summers as a ride operator at Knott’s Berry Farm. I spoke the above words thousands of times. And I fastened thousands of lap bars. And I turned away hundreds of crying children who didn’t meet the height requirements. And I calmed hundreds of angry parents whose children didn’t meet the height requirements. And I cleaned up quite a lot of…well, the results of eating too much cotton candy before going on The Happy Sombrero.
Yes, the agent is the ride operator on the crazy roller coaster of publication.
Rachel, I’m so thankful YOU are my lap bar 🙂
I love it, Sarah! Rachel certainly is the lap bar letting you enjoy the ride as an author. teehee. It’s hard work on both side I know but when you get to scream in excitement together it’s worth it!
BTW I was an amusement park worker too for a summer. I was an elf at Santa’s Workshop! Perky pays off.
I can totally see you as an elf!!! I got to be a “ranger” in Camp Snoopy one summer, and spent the next two in Fiesta Village. Yes, the pasty white girl in Fiesta Village.
Sarah, you worked at Knott’s Berry Farm?! I grew up in Anaheim and of course it was a family destination. I worked at Disneyland, though. 🙂
I agree that Rachel’s analogy agent as lap bar of a roller coaster is a a good one–especially with your added details!
I did!! I grew up in Whittier, two blocks from the border with La Habra. I think I grew up in Disneyland and Knott’s :)When I was little, we’d drive down to Knott’s to the “other side of the street,” and play all day on Jungle Island, ride the merry-go-round, etc. Now it’s a parking lot 🙁 But I did get to operate that same merry-go-round!
I’m glad to be on the roller coaster with you!
I love Knott’s Berry Farm. 🙂
When you are hit with a crisis situation what do I do? I’m ashamed to admit, I usually stew and worry, creating hundreds of “what if” scenarios. Without my wonderful lap bar agent, I’d definitely be the one to go flying out of the car on a tight corner.
And yes, I commonly avoid phone calls. I think I’m even borderline phone-phobic. I definitely prefer email.
Okay, that should be, when *I am* hit by a crisis. I tried to reword Rachel’s question, but only did it partway.
So glad to be with you on the ride!
Excellent post! Great reminder to us all. Sometimes crisis does happen and there’s a lot on other people’s plate. I love how you and Book & Such strive to open the lines of communication. Good job!
In a crisis? I’m usually fine if there’s no blood. I’m one of those “react fine now, hurl later” people. A few years ago, a real life bad guy (a seriously frightening person-the local SWAT team knows exactly who he is and where he lives) drove his SUV right at me and swerved within a few feet. I was all “well, I’d better get the groceries in the house”. I called a friend who is RCMP and asked her what to do. “Call. The. Police.”
Wasn’t I kind of *already*? Anyway. This guy was so much trouble that the Chief Inspector (BOSS) came by…ha!
Yeaaaaaaaaaah. When the dust settled? Oh look, the porcelain throne!
Favourite communication? That’s cute you ask that…”ALL of them”.
Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts
Rachel, I hope that you have a calmer weekend. You and your clients who had crisis are in my prayers.
I tend to retreat in crisis. I will ‘circle the wagons’ so to speak, with a few trusted friends who will pray with me, but I tend to stick to myself. I also tend to think the worst when I don’t know what’s going on in a situation. This is a great reminder that agents have a lot of fires to put out on a daily basis. I don’t call mine, for that reason. I know that eventually, if I send up a follow up email if I still don’t hear from her, she’ll respond. I think like you said, it’s always best to schedule a call, then we’re both prepared and not wasting anyone’s time. Given the current happenings in CBA, I know you guys have been crazy busy the last few days. I hope things calm down soon!
The more I read your blog, the more I realize that perhaps the life of a full-time student and an aspiring author/blogger is not the most hectic lifestyle in the world. Just saying.
I love everyone’s answers, esp. the comments about writers’ ability to follow the imaginary thread. The first thing I always do when I hear back from someone missing in action is to apologize for some imagined word or slight or missed birthday or … well, you get it.
What no one mentioned was the great relief your other clients must feel knowing that one day they will be the priority at the top of your roller coaster. You are obviously a very good agent, Rachel, and I hope all your people appreciate that their turn will come.
In crisis mode, I deal with the most dangerous (or largest) mess immediately; calm down the secondary resulting messes next, to give me (finally) some time to shake, cry, scream and take something for attitude adjustment!
I’m old-school in that I prefer in-the-moment spontaneous exchanges. All my former food-on-the-table jobs required constant client contact, thinking on my feet and voluminous brain-storming. That’s where the best ideas came from. I refuse to text … I’ve yet to find a phone with large enough keys for my arthritic fingers! I do always follow up with an email, though. Has to be in writing eventually!
Thank you for listening, and for the exchanges that happen here.
donnie and doodle
Sometimes . . . when donnie gets busy and is ignoring me, I find that “bark-mail” – seems to cut through the noise of a busy day just as long as I really have something important to BARK ABOUT!
Thanks for posting this! It’s a great look into part of agent work that others probably never think about, but it’s also good advice for everyday life. In an age of social media, it’s easy to think someone’s ignoring you because you aren’t getting a response, but I’ve found more often than not they’re just not checking their Facebook feed as much as you think or they’re overwhelmed with life.
It’s graduation season, church fundraising season, end-of-school season, and all types of other seasons around here. I just sent an email to someone who I’ve been brainstorming with on a project to say, “I’m still here, I’ve not forgotten, I’m just really swamped!”
Rachel, may this week be as peaceful as last week was chaotic.
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